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The Zombies Are Loose...

Originally I thought I would take some time here to explore an ongoing discussion I've been having with a few people about what constitutes a laser tag arena or, more specifically, how much change is necessary to consider a site a "new arena". However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that this discussion is better saved for another day (in the near future) and I'd rather talk about what a laser tag experience can be like when there's actually no arena at all. No, I'm not talking about outdoor or mobile laser tag. What I'm referring to is a truly unique experience I had using laser tag equipment in a completely different environment when I visited Zombie Outbreak in Orlando.

Zombie Outbreak is NOT what I would call a laser tag arena...well, not in any traditional sense anyhow. It's more like a haunted house, but it does incorporate laser tag equipment into its attraction and it IS a game with a score at the end. The premise of the interactive experience is that "the zombies have escaped" and groups can go through the "apocalyptic military base" hunting the zombies.

Here's how it works. They set you up with an iCOMBAT irM4 CQB laser tag "gun" attached to a sling with the sensors embedded in it. The live actor zombies have a sensor headband, but no other "weapon". There is no physical contact between zombies and participants, BUT they do pop out of all sorts of unexpected places and chase the hunters quite menacingly. On an intellectual level I know that it's all just theatrical entertainment, but on a primal level it is an intense adrenaline rush to have someone (zombie or not) charge towards you. However, the hunter has laser tag gear and can "shoot" the zombie to stop them by tagging the sensor on the headband. The game gets interesting if you fail to tag the zombie and they get too close to you for too long then your sensor sling will register a "bite", which is basically the equivalent of them tagging you.

I went through the attraction solo, although I was accompanied throughout the course by my guide. The experience began with the guide whipping open a curtain and shouting "6:15 group, this way!" to deliberately startle me even while I was still waiting in the lobby. After that I was shown a video. This was NOT a briefing video. It was a little drama with exposition, setting up the storyline for how the zombies had come to be on the loose. To be honest I was only half listening to the video because I was keeping my eyes and ears attentive, just guessing that something might be about to jump out at me while I was still in this briefing room...that never actually happened. Then they took a picture of me against a green screen standing next to a gory looking zombie mannequin holding my tag weapon. The guide went over how to use the equipment and then began leading me through the Zombie Outbreak.

I was led through multiple rooms and corridors with eerie lighting and lots of theatrics. There were zombie bodies laying on tables and lots of creatures, some real and some fake, around every corner. In some parts of the maze the zombies were just dummy mannequins wearing the sensor headbands, but no sooner did you pass a fake zombie than a real one would jump out of the shadows and "attack". Again, there was no physical contact involved, but it definitely got my adrenaline pumping! There were plenty of interactive targets throughout the whole place.

This was unlike any laser tag experience I had ever had before and yet it was interesting to see how my tag skills came into play. For example, as a traditional tag girl I am quick on my trigger. I also know that "friendly fire" is my Achilles heel, so it's probably no surprise that I shot at anything that moved...including my guide! Of course there was no harm done, but after the third time he jumped out at me and I mistook him for a zombie he went off script a little bit! :)

At the end of the experience I returned to the lobby and checked the scoreboard. Now, I had gone through the attraction alone (I arrived in between groups and they gave me the choice to "play solo" or wait for other participants to show up) so you only see one score on the board, but this gives some interesting information.

It shows I got a score of 927 (I have no idea how that compares with others) with 44 zombie kills. Although my accuracy was lower than normal at 34.92% I was proud to have gotten through the course with no bites. I am pretty sure I tagged every zombie that came at me and I didn't let any of them get close enough to bite, so I believe the mission was a success! And the fact that there was a score at the end reinforces that this IS a game, even though there was no arena per se and only one "team" was really equipped for tagging. If there had been others going through the experience with me we could have compared scores at the end like normal.

I'm not sure if I can count this as "tag swag", but I did purchase a t-shirt before I left.

And remember the photo they took at the beginning with me in front of the green screen? Well they added a frame and some background imagery and the photo was printed and given to me at the end.

The pic is a little on the gory side so I cropped it to let you use your imagination about the zombie I'm standing next to. In my opinion this is a teen-adult kind of attraction and I personally would not suggest it for children. However, if you can appreciate the theatrical nature of a good haunt and like a few scares and startles along with your tag then this is definitely a unique experience and one that I really enjoyed!

As I said before, I would not classify this as a laser tag arena (although I will add it to my list with a star instead of a number) and it does help gel some thoughts in my mind about what does and does not constitute a laser tag arena. There will be some future discussion posted here in the coming weeks on that topic. But let there be no doubt, this was a really immersive and heart-pumping laser tag experience! It's theme park quality and I am glad I had the chance to experience an entirely different approach to laser tag here. Big thanks to the team at Zombie Outbreak for what turned out to be another really memorable laser tag experience from start to finish.

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